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#4: The Book of Genesis Illustrated by Robert Crumb

The Book of Genesis Illustrated by Robert Crumb
W.W.Norton & Company (Robert Crumb) 2009

Few living cartoonists have enjoyed a professional career as long and productive as Robert Crumb, so it's rewarding that he still produces exciting new work - particularly given the source material.

Crumb's Book of Genesis is the result of a four-year labor, a painstakingly literal and brutally physical representation of the fifty chapters of the first book of the Old Testament. He resisted the temptation to make modifications to the text, but his personal interpretation is boldly expressed in every panel; the players of Crumb's Patriarchal cycles are presented with warts intact. The human flesh is grimy, hairy, filthy with gore and dirt, the shades erected against the desert sun heavy with black ink.

His Biblical legends are heavy with humanity, particularly his YHWH, who rests weightily with his back against the trees in the Garden of Eden, or turns to speak over a broad shoulder - he hefts the halo of his thick, matted hair and beard with the physical power of Atlas holding the heavens - this is a God who maintains a real relationship with his wards. Crumb has given true physical merit to these characters without changing so much as a punctuation mark in the source material - there are no whitewashed prophets in cleansing halos here, and between that and Crumb's depiction of Biblical women in the typical Crumb fashion, it's bound to offend some. This is a good thing, because it speaks well of the emotional weight of Crumb's rendition. Possibly my favorite of his entire body of work to date...

The Book of Genesis Illustrated By Robert Crumb